SHUT UP AND LISTEN: October Podcast Roundup
When something is really popular, there’s usually only two courses of action for me: I’ll either hop on the bandwagon and rep this TV show/band/celebrity/beauty product so hard that every other fan is put to shame (my truly frightening embrace of all things Glee in 2009 comes to mind), or I’ll shun it completely, taking some kind of perverse pleasure in ignoring this huge, amazing thing everyone else is raving about (even if I know I would love it).
Over the past 5 years, I have arbitrarily shunned, among other things, The Hunger Games movies, Breaking Bad, the Beauty and the Beast remake, Game of Thrones after season 4, and podcasts.
The last one came as a personal affront to many of my friends. They had the best intentions: they just wanted to help me become more enlightened, or at least be able to hold a cursory conversation about something they enjoyed. But no. But for whatever reason, the more they asked me if I had listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History” podcast and I responded, “Oooh, not yet, but I will,” the more the weird, popular-thing-hating gremlin inside me resolved that I never actually would.
This is a podcast roundup, so obviously I came around. What was the turning point? Seasonal depression. And boy, am I glad, because—as much as I hate to admit that, yes, you told me so—podcasts have become an essential part of my daily life.
I rotate between around 5 podcasts a week, and these are four of my favorites right now: three *spoopy* ones, because duh, it’s October, and one lighter, girl power-heavy one because you can only take so many haunted hotels and sociopathic cult leaders before that shit starts to really weigh on you.
So listen up:
It’s not news that this is a great podcast; it’s been a heavyweight for a while, and was recently adapted into a TV series on Amazon. But thankfully, the gremlin in me did not shun Lore after learning about its popularity, and I’ve been listening for almost a year.
Created and hosted by Aaron Mahnke (who has a very distinct and endearing narrating style full of halts and pauses), this podcast is meticulously researched and ingeniously written, weaving poetic and philosophical elements around ancient folklore and ghost stories.
One thing that endlessly frustrates me—but that I also love—is that each episode title and description is incredibly cryptic, so I have no idea what I’m getting into when I click play. For example, episode 47 revolves around the Mothman, a well-known, terrifying legend. But this is all that the description reveals:
Like, WTF. That is the vaguest shit I have ever heard. That could be about literally anything, and now my brain is flooded with endless spooky possibilities. But that’s kind of a perfect setup. The vagueness means I can’t endlessly sift through episodes until I find one that matches my mood, or I feel prepared for. I have to just pick a random one and go. It’s a (very mini) leap of faith that hurtles you headfirst into the creepy and mysterious world Mahnke has constructed.
I haven’t watched the TV show yet but I’m excited to see how it translates (or not). TBH I think it might be way too scary for me to actually visualize everything and not just hear it in Mahnke’s slightly dweeby voice. But that's not going to stop me from checking it out (probably).
This show just premiered just last month, so it’s one of the only podcasts I’m actually caught up on. Co-hosts Greg Polcyn and Vanessa Richardson (also co-hosts of the podcast Serial Killers) approach famous cults such as the Manson Family and Heaven’s Gate from a psychological perspective, although they are quick to note at the beginning of each episode that they are not licensed psychologists or psychiatrists. They’ve just conducted rigorous research on the psychology behind these leaders.
Both hosts are extremely engaging, and the content is, perhaps unsurprisingly, totally engrossing. Each cult’s story is spread over two episodes, so there’s plenty of time to examine all parties involved and really dig into the details of these groups.
I was especially intrigued by the episodes about Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, the leaders of the Heaven’s Gate Cult, which ended in the largest mass suicide on U.S. soil. The show is careful not to sensationalize these tragic stories, but rather provide layers of context and thorough analyses of turning points not only in the cult’s history, but the lives of its leaders. It’s an incredibly thoughtful, and thought-provoking series. 10/10 would recommend, and if you're interested in the Manson story—check out Emma Cline's The Girls, which I could write a whole other post about.
I’ve only listened to one episode of this show—actually as part of a crossover promotion with Cults—and although I wasn’t initially the biggest fan of the style (the writing isn't my favorite and the narrator was a little hammy), the story of the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles has stuck with me ever since. I guess you could even say it’s been haunting me. LOL, nice one J!
I think this story had a particular impact on me because, being from L.A., I could imagine exactly where this "cursed" property is, this place where crazy, horrifying, and possibly supernatural shit took place. Located on the edge of Skid Row, I’m sure I’ve walked past the Cecil dozens of times while exploring DTLA, completely unaware of its terrifying history.
There’s tales of murdered babies and depraved ghosts, sure, but something utterly horrifying and 100% real happened here in 2013: the body of Elisa Lam, who was caught on security cameras arguing with an unseen presence before she vanished for 19 days, was found decomposing in the water tank on top of the hotel. The guests had been showering, brushing their teeth, and drinking the contaminated water for weeks before she was discovered. It probably comes as no surprise that this is the real-life hotel that American Horror Story: Hotel was based on.
There’s more I want to give away, but you’ll just have to listen to the podcast in its entirety, which despite some cheesy moments will make your stomach drop.
And now for something completely different. I have to admit, I’ve been privately kind of boycotting all things Sophia Amoruso-related since the news broke that her company, Nasty Gal, denied four pregnant employees maternity leave. It just seemed super shady and again, we know that I sometimes just love to shun things people are raving about, like her book #GIRLBOSS, second book Nasty Galaxy, and her podcast Girlboss Radio.
But I caved and started listening to Girlboss Radio yesterday because I needed to change things up (I just really, really couldn’t get that goddamn Cecil Hotel story out of my head). I saw there was an interview with Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, who I love. And you know what. It was a great interview. So was Amoruso’s talk with Ali Webb, the founder of Drybar, and Garance Doré, founder of Atelier Dore. These extremely successful and powerful women are totally relaxed, candid, funny, and inspiring, and although she makes it sound effortless, I’m sure that level of comfort is in large part due to Amoruso’s presence and skill as an interviewer.
Listening to this show makes me want to take over the world (or maybe just start a really successful media company) and it’s going to be played in heavy rotation over the next few weeks.
A Converted #Girlboss